Censorship Sucks, But So Does Pearl Jam's 'Jeremy'
In a time when Taylor Swift frolicking ironically around some grand estate can become one of the most viewed videos on YouTube, the high-concept music video is a real relic of a bygone era. Most kids these days, for example, have no idea that a Rebel Without a Cause reboot starring Keanu Reeves in his early '90s prime exists because it was shot for the purpose of a Paula Abdul music video. It's just sitting around somewhere gathering dust, featuring dialog we'll never hear because it was more important for an ex-American Idol judge to reassure us that she's gonna take this love right to us.
It was in this era that Pearl Jam released "Jeremy," a song about a bullied boy accompanied by a music video depicting a suicide so graphic that MTV refused to play it uncensored even before they became grandpas that stopped playing videos at all. And it was in that era that it arguably should have stayed. Nevertheless, "to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day," Pearl Jam officially released the uncensored cut of "Jeremy."
With a thumbnail that looks like it's marking "National Migraine Awareness Day."
It's always been an upsetting video, ending with the title character walking to the front of a class and pulling something out of his pocket before cutting to a bunch of his classmates covered in blood. (There's also some Hitler saluting, including by our hero, but MTV felt okay leaving that in.) In the unedited version, however, there's a lengthy close-up of the character putting a gun in his mouth, shutting his eyes, and pulling the trigger. Interestingly, the edit left many under the impression that "Jeremy" shot up his class, which would have made a lot more sense because the song and video have almost nothing to do with the suicide of Jeremy Wade Delle, which inspired Eddie Vedder to write the song.
To be fair, Vedder has gone on the record that the "Jeremy" of the song is a composite of Delle, who shot himself at school, and a boy Vedder used to know, who was apparently just kind of a dick. Seriously, why bite the recess lady, and on the boob? What did she ever do to him? It's no surprise that at least one of Delle's classmates was pretty pissed about the song, telling a local news channel that "That story isn't accurate." She didn't elaborate, but for one thing, he clearly had a loving mother, in stark contrast to the story presented in the song, and nobody could explain why he killed himself. You'd think someone would have been like, "Oh, yeah, they kicked his ass just constantly" if that had been the case. But hey, what's a boring story about chemical imbalance when there's revenge and Hitler?
We generally frown on censorship here, but what exactly are they raising awareness of with this move? Nevermind that the uncensored video has been available on YouTube channels with names like "craigsballs1978" for years; it's a story that never happened. An argument could be made that it's about the danger of easy access to guns, but that kinda gets lost in the whole "13 Reasons Why but make it grunge" of it all. (And we know how well that worked out.) "Jeremy" was filmed at a time when camera phones were science-fiction, but now that our Twitter feeds are full of disturbing depictions of real gun violence, it just feels like shock schlock. Sit down, Pawpaw Eddie -- we'll take it from here. Surely there's another trendy sound you can capitalize on or something. If you really want to do something good for the world, get us Reeves Without a Cause.
Top image: Sony Music Entertainment